The committee having the matter in charge consisted of L. W. Peck, J. B. Hunt, Rev. G. H. Brigham and the pastor, Rev. W. Jasper Howell.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 27th, 10:30 A. M.
ORGAN VOLUNTARY---Grand Offertoire in G, Batiste
RESPONSIVE READING---Psalms 96 and 97.
ANTHEM---Male Quartet. Selected.
|GEORGE W. LONG,||C. R. DOOLITTLE,|
|J. B. HUNT,||A. W. McNETT.|
CHURCH COVENANT---Recited in concert by congregation standing.
HYMN NO. 774---From all Thy Saints in Warfare.
HISTORICAL SERMON---The Pastor,
SUNDAY SCHOOL CENTENNIAL SERVICE.
ORGAN PROCESSIONAL and March of Primary Department.
OPENING EXERCISES---Primary Department.
HISTORICAL PAPER---Mrs. A. D. Ellsworth.
REMINISCENCES by Older Members of the School.
REMARKS by former Superintendents.
REMARKS---JOSHUA SANDERS of New York City.
SUNDAY EVENING, OCT. 27, 7 O'CLOCK.
GRAVE AND ADAGIO from Sonata II - Mendelssohn
QUINTET---Evening Song Martin
MONDAY EVENING, 7:30 SHARP
ROLL CALL OF MEMBERS from A to L.
TUESDAY AFTERNOON, 2 O'CLOCK.
ROLL CALL COMPLETED.
GREETINGS from absent members, former members, sons in the ministry and workers on mission fields.
TUESDAY EVENING, 7:30.
City Pastors Speak.
O THOU SUBLIME EVENING STAR,
Romance from Tannhauser - - - Wagner
POEM---"Centennial Musings."---Written for the occasion by
WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON, 2:30 O'CLOCK.
REUNION of the four churches that have gone out from the First Church.
WEDNESDAY EVENING, 7:30
An Evening with Former Pastors.
THURSDAY EVENING, 7:30.
Union Service of Memorial and First Churches.
ANDANTE RELIGIOSO AND ALLEGRETTO from Sonata IV, - - Mendelssohn
SOPRANO AND ALTO DUET---Hark! Hark! My Soul - - Shelly
"One generation shall praise they works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts." Psalms cxlv, 4.
Fathers and Brethren of this church---We rejoice to see this good hour by the Providence of our God. Who can write the history of a century? Who could comprehend the triumphs of faith and hold living through 100 years? Neither the historian nor the prophet can ever reach the boundary lines of the spiritual career of any church that testifies for her living head in the land of the living by the space of 100 years of continuous life. O Zion! Truly Thy labors do follow Thee. None but the recording angel himself and thine exalted Lord have observed thy journey from the beginning until now and could fittingly commend Thy faith. Today a great cloud of witnesses encompass us and hold us in full survey. The church triumphant cheers the church militant.
The year 1801 that opened this century was an epoch-making year. It was a year of beginnings. It marked the beginning of things. It was a year of pioneer settlements. It was the beginning of our nation. The war of Revolution had just closed less than twenty years before. Our national government was just established. It was the beginning of foreign missions. In 1792, nine years before this church was founded, Carey preached at a Baptist association in Nottingham, England, his historic sermon. Its two divisions have long been the motto words for Christian enterprise: "Expect great things from God, and attempt great things for God." The church building in which he preached that sermon is still standing, though for many years not used for religious worship, but as a furniture store. I was glad to reverently visit it this past summer. In that same year he published "An Inquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen." In that same year, at Kettering, England, was formed the first foreign missionary society among Baptists. In 1795 the London Missionary Society was formed by the Congregationalists. In 1799 the Church Missionary Society was formed by the Church of England. In that same year, the Religious Tract Society was formed for the purpose of sending colporteurs into all the world. Seven years before this church was organized, Carey went to India as a missionary, and in 1801, when our sixteen charter members met in the home of Asahel Minor, Carey was translating Sanscrit in India. Today there are over 300 foreign missionary societies in Christendom, and 250 conversions every week on the foreign fields.
That year was neat the beginnings of other great movements. The first rise of Methodism, when John Wesley and three others met together at Oxford was only seventy-two years before the founding of this church. In the year 1801, the second president of the United States, John Adams, was in office, Jefferson being inaugurated in March 1801. At that time there was but one theological seminary in the United States for the training of the ministry. Seven years later, the first theological seminary in New England was established at Andover, Mass. The Baptists had no seminary and only one college. Princeton and Yale seminaries have been founded since then.
Taking the year 1801, memorable to us as a starting point, let us note that it was the forerunner of many important events and preceded many inventions. It was two years before the Louisiana Purchase, that more than doubled the area of our country at one stroke. Before that purchase our western boundary did not reach as far as the Mississippi river. In 1801 the area of our country was only one-fourth of what it is today, then having only sixteen states.
The founding of this church was six years before Fulton's steamboat and also six years before the founding of our Baptist State Convention. The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was formed in 1810 and in 1812 they sent out five young men, one of them being Judson. When Judson went out there were only 75,000 Baptists in the United States. Today, in the United States, there are 4,200,000 Baptists. The founding of this church preceded the following events and inventions by the number of years that I will give: The establishment of our American Baptist Missionary Union by thirteen years; twenty-four years before the first Baptist Theological Seminary at Newton, Mass; twenty-six years before the first railway built in the United States; twenty-eight years before the typewriter was invented in the United States; forty-five years before Howe's sewing machine and Morse's telegraphic message; forty-six years before the United States government printed postage stamps, and seventy-five years before Bell's telephone.
So much for the Contemporary Period in the world at large at the opening of the century. Let us now glance briefly at Cortland County. Then I will speak of the first thirty years of our church history being most important for this occasion, the life and times of Alfred Bennett, the building enterprises of the century and their leaders, and then a brief survey of the church in recent years.
It is the duty of each generation to know the pioneer history of its own locality. Along our Tioughnioga, swarthy Indians trailed their way, when our first brethren found their way to this church. Joseph Beebe, one of our sixteen charter members was one of the first pioneers to settle in this valley. His home was in Homer village. He came ten years before the organization of this church. And in that interval, many other immigrants came from New England.
At that time this territory was in Onondaga county. The site of the present city of Cortland was in the township of Homer until 1829. In 1791 the population of the township of Homer was ninety-two. In 1810, John Keep was appointed the first county judge. He was a Baptist. Baptists were forerunners in this county. This church is the oldest church organization in this county, being organized nine days before the Congregational church of Homer.
There are now five Baptist churches in this association that were organized between 1801 and 1810. They are Etna, Freetown, Lansing and Groton, Solon and Truxton.
I have the minutes for ninety consecutive years of the three associations in which this church has been a member, namely Otsego, Madison and Cortland. The church records from 1801 to 1901 are preserved and invaluable. It is difficult reading, notwithstanding a saint of this congregation now 95 years of age, said when she saw them: "How much plainer people used to write then that they do now." Though agreeing entirely with this saint in Israel on matters of faith and practice, yet in this matter, I must be granted my inalienable privilege as a Baptist to have the right of private judgment. Henceforth I sympathize with those who decipher the hieroglyphics of the ancients to bring to light longed-for information.
This historical discourse has been written within the hearing of the noise of many hammers during the recent restoration of this temple, not to mention arranging the program for centennial week.
This church was organized Oct. 3, 1801, as the Homer Baptist church. At this time the townships of Homer and Cortlandville were included in the town of Homer. The first recorded meeting of persons who afterward organized this church was held on April 24, 1801, at the home of Asahel Minor in Homer. Those present agreed to meet regularly for public worship. The number in attendance at that meeting is not given. The Lord's day following they met in the same place and appointed the next Friday for a fast day, thus laying the foundation of the church by prayer and fasting. Joseph Beebe is mentioned as their first moderator and John Keep as their first church clerk. With a few weeks after their first meeting, they met in the house of Wm. E. Bishop "for the purpose of hearing those who wished to join in fellowship relate what the Lord had done for their souls." Three people "gave satisfaction" to the church and were received. Their names were John Morse, Mary Bishop, and Rhoda Beebe. I desire to perpetuate their names as the first who joined this church. Yet at this time they did not regard themselves as a church, nor do we know who few or many there were thus banded together. Within two months from the first meeting, the records say they assembled in occasional prayer and conference meetings. In July they voted to "attend covenant meeting statedly Saturday before the third Sunday in each month." July 18 is the first recorded preaching. Rev. James Bacon of New Woodstock preached from Gen. xxii, 14---"In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." On Aug. 21, the following resolution was passed" "Voted to call a council to give us fellowship as a church in sister relation, to consist of the churches, Hamilton, DeRuyter, and New Woodstock." They also voted to write to the Otsego association. Sept.19, at covenant meeting it was voted to consider ourselves a church of Christ and act accordingly." On Oct. 3 a council convened at the home of John Keep in Homer, at the request of the Baptists in Homer. Rev. Jas. Bacon, pastor from New Woodstock, Rev. Nathan Baker, pastor in DeRuyter and Daniel Page from DeRuyter were present. Rev. Joseph Cornell was asked to take a seat with the council. The council examined the articles and covenant1 of the members, now numbering sixteen, seven brethren and nine sisters. "The council then retired and after deliberate consideration advised them to persevere as a church, and after solemn prayer, gave then the right hand of fellowship as a church of Christ." Signed in behalf of the council, Joseph Cornell, moderator, and Daniel Page, clerk. The next Lord's day they observed the ordinance of the Lord's Supper for the first time.
In October at a covenant meeting, they "solemnly renewed their covenant engagement to be the Lord's." At this time they voted not to have a stated moderator but to elect one at each meeting. At this time also, their first deacon, Joseph Beebe, was elected by ballot. Oct. 20, a sermon was preached at John Keep's house, after which Susannah Andrews was baptized. This is the first recorded baptism. At this time it was voted to write Rev. Joseph Cornell asking him to spend a few Sabbaths with them. "The meeting house" is referred to in this first year, though undoubtedly the private house of John Keep is meant. In December at a conference meeting the propriety of giving the hand of fellowship to each member when received was discussed. This is the history of the first year. There were only seven male members in January, 1802, when the first assessment was made, amounting to $7.02. The highest assessment of any member was $2.36 and the least was 13 cents.
Although small in numbers the church covered a large territory. In March 1802m the church voted to meet at Tully one quarter of the time. In August, 1802, they voted to join the Otsego association, Brethren Thomas Keep and Pele Babcock being appointed as the first messengers. The Homer church appears in the minutes of that year. They disciplined their members in those days. A member is appointed to visit one long absent from the services and report the reason. The church had no regular pastor for the first six years. But the names of visiting ministers are given. Rev. Mr. Bacon came from Woodstock to administer a church ordinance. Father Kinney, Elders Leaner, Freeman, Lawton, Roots and Sahel Homer preached at times. In 1804 it was voted that the Virgil brethren be allowed to hold meetings for public worship whenever they chose except at the monthly meetings of the Homer church.
Frequently in the records it is stated that a letter commendation is given a member "for the benefit of a journey." April 29, 1804, Alfred Bennett joined the church by letter.
In 1805 the assessment method of raising money was done away and it was decided to support the gospel by voluntary contributions quarterly. Oct. 19, 1805, the Virgil brethren were dismissed to form a church by themselves. In this dame year Alfred Bennett was licensed to preach within the bounds of the church. But March 15, 1806, he was licensed to preach wherever called, being given "liberty to improve his gifts, where God in his providence shall open the door." In 1806 the church sent Alfred Bennett and John Keep as "messengers" to meet with delegates from sister churches at Cazenovia to consider a division of the Otsego association. The Madison association was organized in 1808 and the Homer church joined that year and the names of Alfred Bennett and John Keep appear in the minutes as delegates. They left Otsego association. Feb. 14, 1807, Alfred Bennett was called as pastor. On June 18, 1807, at the home of John Keep, Alfred Bennett was ordained as an evangelist.
In 1808, there was a meeting of the society to see if all would unite in support of Rev. Alfred Bennett another year. At covenant meetings, they are frequently said to have a "low time as to the vital exercises of religion, but they still have a mind to go forward." Their church discipline is also good. Sometimes their meetings are described as "comfortable unions." At their covenant meetings always, "The moderator inquires the minds of the people." The term "baptized church" is used often instead of Baptist church.
In June 1809, the church in Truxton requested that Elder Bennett and two brethren be sent to act in council on the second Tuesday in August at the ordination of Brother Samuel Biglow to the gospel ministry.
In Elder Bennett's memoirs, it is states that: "The church had no house of worship and were accustomed to assemble on the Sabbath at different places in the town, which much affected the permanency of the congregation, widely scattered over a region twenty miles in extent. It was not easy to gather the flock into one assembly, or discharge faithfully to them in counsel and visitation the duties of pastor." Through all those years, like the Apostle, the historian of this church "salutes the church which is thy house." For it was at a church meeting in the house of John Keep on January 8, 1810, that the First Baptist Society in the town of Homer was incorporated." At this meeting, it was proposed to build a house of worship. At the next meeting, a week later, the location of the church was agreed upon. It was "voted that the south-east corner of John Stillman's land shall be the spot to set the meeting house, in the corner west of Elisha Crosby's and north of the road leading from E. Crosby's to Stephen Wilcox's." The house was to be 35x60 feet in size. Moses Hopkins, John Burnham an Asa Bennett were the committee to draw the plan. I would like to perpetuate the names of the building committee of each of the three meeting houses used by this church. One-fourth of the payments were to be in cash and the other three-fourths in grain or neat cattle. The site described was a little north of the intersection of Homer Ave. and Fitz Ave. in the City of Cortland. The house of worship was used by the church till 1833. In 1810, there is mention of the first pew holders. At the sale of pews the highest price paid was $125 and the lowest price was $59. In that same year, the contract to build the meeting house for $2,175.00 was let.
In that year, the Solon church requests the pastor and delegates to a council for ordination. In the same year, there is an entry of an appropriation of 50 cents for associational minutes. This was once one of the small churches of the association.
In 1811 is a noteworthy entry,---at a church meeting,---"took up the missionary business and voted to encourage it, and for that purpose to have a contribution at some future time."
In June 1812, the first meeting house was dedicated. In 1812, Asahel Minor was baptized. It was in his house that the church held its first meeting eleven years before. In that year, a large number were baptized and added to the church. The church assembled for special prayer for their country, at that time engaged in war.
In 1815, a council of various churches was called to ordain deacons, one of whom had been elected eight years previous. They were examined as to their hope and doctrine. The council retired for deliberations, then followed an ordination sermon, a charge to the candidates, the ordaining prayer and the laying on of hands.
In 1815 is the entry "voted that the deacons procure a Bible to accommodate the minister and church and it be kept at the meeting house."
Frequently the church set apart a day for fasting and prayer. In 1817, after Elder Bennett had been pastor ten years, it is stated that his call was for one year at a time. Indeed it seems that calling the pastor annually continued till 1862. At any rate, it is mentioned in that year. Foot stoves were used in those early days, but they were not to be left in the meeting house with fire in them. In the eleventh year of Elder Bennett's pastorate his salary was only $300.00 yet there were 400 members in the church. He often took an "extended missionary tour."
In 1826 it was proposed to the church by some of the brethren to build a Baptist meeting house in the upper village, and a special meeting was appointed to consider it. Another meeting in the same year, the records say, "that it was agreed that as individuals those who wish to build a meeting house in the upper village have the liberty to do so, and to enjoy it when built." On Dec. 16, 1826, a committee was appointed to meet with sister churches from Cayuga and Madison associations to consult about the propriety of forming a new association.
In the following year, 1827, April 14th, letters of dismission were granted to 34 persons to form another church in the vicinity of Samuel McGraw. That was the second Baptist church in the township of Homer and it is now the First Baptist church of McGrawville.
The question of forming a new association was still agitated. Aug. 18, 1827, letters of dismission were granted to twenty-five members to form the Homer village church, which is now the First Baptist church of Homer. Alfred Bennett was first moderator of this association. Then Elder Card was called and served as pastor two years and then joined the Groton church.
At the annual meeting of the church held in the old meeting house, Dec. 8, 1830, the name of the church was changed to "The First Baptist church in Cortlandville," because the town was divided the previous year and the church was located in the town of Cortlandville. In that year, the pastor's salary was only $150.00. That great reduction was perhaps due to the fact that two churches had shortly before gone out of the membership. Only $11.15 was given to foreign missions one year.
In the minutes of the Cortland Co. Baptist Association for 1831, there is the following letter from the Cortlandville church: "To this church the mercy of the Lord has been manifest; we have had a season of refreshing. The aged and the young have mingled their prayers, and sinners have bowed to the sceptre of King Jesus. Our Sunday school still continues."
That was in 1831. At this time, their entire benevolent offering was only $50, but they were engaged in building their meeting house.
Nov. 15, 1831, it was voted to build a new meeting house if sufficient funds could be obtained. The house was to be located on Chapel street (now Church street) in Cortland village. The contract was let to Dyer T. Edmonds to build the house for $3,000.00
Again I desire to perpetuate the names of the building committee,---Chauncey Jones, Martin Sanders, Parker Crosby, Elisha Salisbury and Wm. Randall. The size of the building was to be 44x60 feet.
On Oct. 9, 1833, the new Baptist meeting house was dedicated to the worship of God. The janitor at that time was paid $10.00 per year. In 1834, Rev. Zenas Freeman was received into the church. His salary was $400.00. There were 212 members of the church at that time. In that year the old meeting house that had been used since 1810 was leased to the "Universal society" for one year, reserving the right to see the house anything within the year. Oct. 1st, 1838, the church voted to sell the old meeting house. It was purchased by the Wesleyan Methodist church of Blodgett Mills and was moved to its present site and was used by that denomination till June 4, 1890, when the church became the Baptist church of Blodgett Mills and the old meeting house with its modern improvements was again in the Baptist denomination. There was a flourishing Sabbath school in 1834. As early as 1835, Martin Sanders was teaching a singing school. In 1835, the Sunday school numbered 247 scholars, and there were 237 volumes in the library. Their church letter to the association for that year stated that the Sunday school and Bible classes were exerting a happy influence on the minds of the community. The benevolences of the church for that year were $400.00, an increase of $100.00 over the preceding year.
On Aug. 24th, 1835, while Rev. Zenas Freeman was pastor, a council was called to ordain Brother Samuel S. Day. Alfred Bennett was made moderator. It was voted "to ordain him as an evangelist and in the afternoon to set him apart for a missionary to preach the Gospel among the heathen in a foreign land." Rev. Zanas Freeman was the first corresponding secretary for ministerial education of the Rochester Seminary, from 1850 to 1859.
Now let me call your attention to the life and times of Alfred Bennett. Few preachers have been more useful in all our denominational history. He was born in Connecticut in 1780. His early home influences were strictly religious. He was converted at the age of 18 years and was baptized on the first Sabbath of February in the year 1800. He came to Homer in 1803. He found the church worshipping in private dwellings. He began his life here as a farmer. He was ordained in 1807 as pastor of the Homer church. In 1827, he became pastor to the present Homer church and resigned in 1832 to accept the office of missionary agent of the Board of Foreign Missions. To the cause he devoted all his energies till his death in 1851. He was buried in Homer, N.Y. He was one of the pioneer missionaries of the Hamilton Missionary society. In 1849 and 1850, he was president of the Baptist State convention. He was on the editorial staff of "The Vehicle", which later merged into the "Baptist Register" which was also succeeded by "The Examiner".
He shrank from entering the ministry because of a lack of education. In 1811, in an absence of seven weeks on a missionary tour, he traveled 500 miles and preached fifty-seven sermons. His salary when pastor never exceeded $400.00 and much of it was paid in produce. Still he gave largely to objects of benevolence. He effected a missionary organization among the young people of his church.
A great crisis in his life was the separation from his son Cephas, who with his wife went to Burma as a missionary printer sometime previous to 1830. At that time, it was thought to be a separation for life, requiring a voyage of six months around the Cape of Good Hope by sailing vessel. At the farewell service in the meeting house, he addressed his son as follows: "I have often prayed that God would send forth laborers into heathen lands, but little did I think that he would call thee, my son. But go, my son, and plant the Rose of Sharon on Burma's shore, and let me rather hear of your death than that you have abandoned the work." While uttering this address not a tear fell from his eyes but he was pale with emotion. At the time Cephas Bennett left there was no expectation that he would ever return. But he did return twice during the sixty years of his service as a missionary. After the departure of his son, Elder Bennett became so interested in missions that he resigned the pastorate of the church in Homer and entered upon the work of traveling and preaching to promote missionary interest among the churches, and collecting funds for it support.
Upon the occasion of the semi-centennial of Rochester Seminary, President A. H. Strong, D.D., in his historical address said: "Alfred Bennett was the old fashioned preacher, whose lack of early education was more than made up by sturdy sense, a deep Christian experience, and a mighty grip upon the doctrines of grace. No man ever did more for the Baptist cause and for the cause of Christ in the state of New York than did he, in those early days when under his preaching thousands of people in our new settlements were made to feel, first a deep concern for their own souls and then a deep concern for the souls of others. If our churches believe in revivals and in missions to-day, they owe it largely to the labors of sixty, seventy, eighty years ago, of Alfred Bennett. I am glad to say that his subscription of $100.00 was the first one paid to the University, and that it was he who preached the sermon at the opening of the Rochester Seminary."
There is no more illustrious page in the century's history of this church than that which records the faithfulness of Samuel S. Day as a missionary in India. He was truly the forerunner of the ever memorable Telugu Pentecost. Samuel S. Day was the real founder of the Telugu Baptist mission at Nellore in 1840, though he reached Calcutta in 1836. In 1841, he baptized the first Telugu convert. He had waited five long years for his first convert. Three years later a church with eight members was constituted. He returned home soon after this. But he returned to India is 1849. Even after this, the denomination came near abandoning the field.
During all his years of labor and seemingly hopeless waiting upon that field, his membership was in this church, joining the Homer church from us in 1859. But for him, perhaps that field would have been abandoned. The "Lone Star Mission" has filled with world with rejoicing. Thousands were baptized in a single year. A member of this church was, under God, a forerunner in that Pentecostal movement. He returned home in 1853 and was buried in the Homer cemetery. It was a privilege for this church this very centennial year to contribute toward the election of a Day memorial chapel in Madras.
Time forbids my dwelling on the last half century of church life. This part of the history is more familiar and will be brought out during this centennial week in the addresses by former pastors and other brethren.
The erection of the present house of worship is the most important event in the recent history of this church. In 1871, the church voted to erect a new church building. The following "Building committee" was appointed: Chauncey Keator, H. C. Smith, E. A. Fish, Samuel Freeman, J. B. Squires, J. L. Gillett, T. M. Loring, G. N. Copeland, E. P. Slafter, Joseph Kinney, and Norman Chamberlain. One two of these brethren are now living, our own Deacon Fish and H. C. Smith now of Syracuse. Their fellow laborers now worship in that "building of God, a home not made with hands." And so we have entered into the labors of others. This faithful committee was generously supported by the members in their generous gifts toward the erection of the building. A large number gave $100.00 each. Many gave from $100.00 to $500.00 each. Some gave $1,000.00 each. And a few gave $1,500.00 sand $2,000.00 each. All the people had a mind to work. The original subscription list was started in August 1871. The old church was moved off in August, 1872, and the building was commenced at once. The builders were Straat & Keeler of Cortland. The corner stone was laid Oct. 10, 1872.
The church was dedicated on Feb. 18th, 1874. Rev. J. B. Thomas, D.D. of Brooklyn, N.Y. preached the morning sermon from the text, I Cor. 16:19 "The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house." The evening sermon was preached by Rev. A. H. Strong, D.D. of Rochester Seminary, Rochester, N.Y. from the text Matt. 3:15 "For thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness."
The building cost $31,165.96. But $9,706.97 was still unpledged. A historical and financial statement was made by Rev. J.S. Backus, D.D. of New York. Dr. Backus secured $6,000.00 in ledges and the assistance of two former pastors, Brethren Wilkins and Tower. All denominations participated in the joy of the occasion. The rector of the Episcopal church and the Catholic priest both made remarks and contributed to the dedication offering.
This church has had sons who have gone out to serve our great denomination and on this occasion, we return thanks to the great Head of the church for their usefulness. Some of them have become pillars and leaders in our denomination. It is gratifying that one of the sons of this church has served the denomination for fifteen years as president of our State Convention. His presence with us today is one of the delights of this occasion.
As an evidence of continued spiritual growth, in 1896 the fourth church that has gone out from this fellowship was organized as the Memorial Baptist church.
This centennial occasion witnesses a growing missionary spirit in the church. At the Sunday morning service on Nov. 18th, 1900, it was voted by the church to adopt Rev. Wilber T. Elmore of Lincoln, Neb. And a graduate of Rochester Theological Seminary as the special missionary of this church and all our offerings for foreign missions during the year go to his support and that the offering be sent through the Missionary union.
All our living pastors except Rev. William Kincaid of Honolulu and Rev. Thomas Goodwin (1861-1863) now living at Jenkintown, Pa., at the advanced age of 86 years, will be here this centennial week. Their coming back to us again gladdens all our hearts.
Whether former pastors or Christian workers in this church, let us face the coming year with this prayer in verse as the impulse for our toil:
| "Another year is dawning,|
Dear Master, let it be
In working or in waiting
Another year with thee.
| "Another year of mercies,|
Of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness
In the shining of thy face.
| "Another year of progress,|
Another year of praise,
Another year of proving
Thy presence all the days.
| "Another year is dawning,|
Dear Master, let it be
On earth, or else in heaven
Another year with thee."
The centennial anniversary was observed by the Sunday school in the auditorium of the church, 427 members of the school being present. While the Processional was played upon the organ the Primary department marched in. The following former superintendents of the school were seated upon the platform: Messrs. Saunders, Fish, Cleaves and Phelps along with Superintendent Miles J Peck. The following superintendents of the Primary department were also upon the platform: Miss Elizabeth Robertson, Mrs. James S. Squires, Mrs. Wayne Watkins, Mrs. A. D. Ellsworth
The superintendent asked all present who had been members of the school for fifty years to come forward to the front seats, and the following responded: Deacon Curtis R. Harmon, N. P. Walworth, Mrs. A. M. Graves, Mrs. William R. Curtis, Mrs. Curtis R. Harmon, Mrs. Helen M. Slafter, Mrs. L.C. Kinney and Mrs. James Jenman.
The opening exercises were then conducted by the Primary Department, and the regular program for the day was proceeded with.
Although we meet to-day to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the church by all existing accounts it does not seem to the centennial of our Sunday school. In a careful examination of the church records from the beginning, no mention is found of a Sunday school. The associational letter, however, first makes known the existence of such an organization in the minutes of 1831. Hence, it is safe to conclude that we observe to-day at least the seventieth anniversary of our Sunday school.
After it was once organized, the school seems to have increased rapidly, soon becoming an important factor in the work of the church. In 1834 the annual church letter reports a flourishing Sunday school. In 1836 the Sunday school and Bible class are said to "exert a happy influence over the minds of the community, having a membership of 247, and a library of several volumes."
It has been impossible to ascertain terms of service. The order, also, may not be absolutely correct. It is certain, however, that the following persons served as superintendents between 1831 and 1860: Rev. Zenas Freeman, Dea. Carver Campbell, Dea. Ira Grant, Dea. Thomas Chollar, Dea. C. W. Turner, Joshua Sanders, Frederick Holmes, C. K. Stiles, Harvey Wood, Joseph Good, A. W. Alexander, Lorenzo Fish, Prof. M. N. Allen, Samuel R. Sykes. The first book of Sunday school records is dated 1861, with E. P. Slafter, superintendent. E. A. Fish was elected the following year, and served most faithfully and successfully for the remarkable period of twenty-five consecutive years. Throughout the entire term of Mr. Fish's office the records are kept in an exceedingly concise, complete and satisfactory manner, a fact which is appreciated by the historian. One feature especially worthy of note is the record of the conversion and baptism each year of members of the school. For instance, in 1865-6, twenty-six conversions were reported. The largest attendance that year was 173, the smallest, sixty-seven. Under date of November 15, 1868, ten members of the school were baptized; November 29, eight more. In that year, 1868, the classes, seventeen in number, adopted names by which to be designated instead of numbers. The following are the names of the classes with their respective teachers: "Busy Bees", Miss Hattie Cudworth. "Little Gleaners", Miss Josie Kinney. "Country's Hope", Mrs. Helen Slafter. "Little Mary's", Miss Mary Bradford. "Ann Judson", Mrs. E. Freeman. "Golden Links", Miss Rose Copeland. "United Band", Miss Martha Knapp. "Humble Workers", Mrs. G. W. Bradford. "Field Flowers", Miss A. Sanders. "Firm Steps", Mrs. I. M. Seaman. "Roger Williams", Rev. A. Wilkins. "Robert Raikes, Mr. White. "Little Samuels", teacher not mentioned. "Band of Hope", Wm. R. Curtis. "Young Lambs", Mr. Kinney. Among the "Young Lambs" are Frankie Squires, Georgie Letts, Georgie Allport, Elzevir Rickard, Willie Bates, Frankie Wilkins, and Freddie Brooks. It is possible there are those present who recall the time when they were proud to be known by these suggestive titles. The "Little Samuels" we still have with us.
The officers for 1868 were: Supt. E. A. Fish; Asst. Supt., A. N. Rounsevelt; Sec., F. A. Vanderburg; Treas., Lettie A. Hatfield; Libr., W. P. Sumner; chorister, N. P. Darling. Largest attendance, 191. The resolution was passed in that year that, in future, all classes should take the same lesson.
The attendance for 1869 reached 260. Officers the same except, Asst. Supt., Prof. F. S. Capen; Treas., F. Wilkins; chorister, E. P. Slafter.
A book is missing at this period and we again take up the record in 1872. The first item of importance appears, August 11,---"There has been no school for the past two weeks on account of moving the church building. Arrangements are being made for a picnic at Ithaca on August 21, 1872". The library of three hundred volumes seems to have been sold to the Killawog Sunday school for $50.
In March, 1873, a committee was appointed to purchase a new library. The officers for that year were E. A. Fish, Supt.; C. A. Persons, Ass't.; R. J. Briggs, Sec.; Almond Sanders, Treas.; G. S. Sands, Libr.; S. M. Wood, chorister. The largest attendance in 1873 was 273.
In 1876, the membership had greatly increased, a primary department having been added apparently about the time of the occupancy of the new church building. There were 468 members at this time, the largest attendance during the year being 348. There were thirty-eight baptisms of Sunday school pupils. April 15, 1877, "There was no session of the school because of the death of Mrs. Kincaid, wife of the pastor." Average attendance steadily increasing. Ten from the Sunday school joined the church within the year. November 18, an organ was purchased for the school.
In 1878, fifty-six united with the church from the Sunday school, forty-nine by baptism. Twenty-one conversions are noted from one class, that of Prof. F. S. Capen. A new organization of the school was effected in 1879, with the following constitution:
Art. I. This organization shall be known as the Sunday school of the First Baptist church of Cortland, N.Y.
Art. II. Its object shall be to study God's word and to work for the conversion of souls.
Art. III. The sessions of the school shall be immediately after Sabbath morning services.
Art. IV. The officers shall be the Pastor, Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Superintendent of the Infant Department, Secretary, Treasurer, Librarian, Chorister, and Organist.
Art. V. The officers and teachers hall constitute an executive committee which shall have the general oversight of all matters pertaining to the interests of the school, and shall be held responsible for its welfare.
Art VI. The teachers shall nominate the officers who are to be elected by the school at its annual meeting.
Art. VII. The corps of teachers shall be self-perpetuating; that is to say, the teachers shall elect their associates.
The attendance for the year 1880 and 1881 somewhat decreased, the average being 250. The officers were Supt. E. A. Fish; Ass't., Prof. E. C. Cleaves; Supt. Primary Department, Miss Libbie Robertson; Sec., Clara Harmon; Treas. Glenn A. Tisdale; Libr., Flora Curtis; chorister, C. F. Brown; organist, Mrs. Fisher.
Having now arrived at a period in the history of our school which is within the memory of many present, it will be necessary to glance more rapidly over the remaining twenty years. Mr. Fish resigned in 1887 and Prof. E. C. Cleaves was elected superintendent. His term of office was marked by interest and faithful attendance, with harmony and united effort on the part of all members of the school. Under his wise direction, many improvements were made, one of which was the beginning of better days for the primary department. Their place of meeting was changed from the room now occupied by the Baraca class to the south-east parlor. During his term, the teachers' meeting gained in interest and attendance under the leadership of Rev. Dr. H. A. Cordo, who conducted the lessons for many years. The Teachers' association was formed in 1879 with the following pledge:
"Believing that the soul is of priceless and immortal value, and that out of Christ, it is unsaved and in infinite peril, I will, with God's help, make the salvation of my scholars the one aim of all my teaching, and, until they have accepted Christ as their Savior, I will earnestly strive, with prayer and effort, to win them to Him.
"Believing that, after conversion, the work of soul culture is but just begun, I will endeavor, to the best of my ability, so to guide, teach, and encourage those that believe, that they may grow in the grace, knowledge, and love of God.
"To secure these results, I will strive to maintain abiding union with Christ, seeking the assured aid of the Holy Spirit, and prefacing my work in my class with prayer and preparation.
"Knowing that time is short, life uncertain, youth fleeting, and the night coming, I will be with my class regularly and punctually at every session, and if, on account of sickness of any other legitimate reasons, I am unable to do so, I will seasonable notify the superintendent of intended absence, and will, if possible, secure a substitute.
"I will visit my scholars as often as possible, and endeavor to bring such influences to bear upon absentees as will cause them to be regular in their attendance.
"I will endeavor to be punctual and regular in my attendance upon all the appointed meetings of the executive committee of the Sunday school."
This association has continued unbrokenly till the present time, meeting each week for the study of the lesson and has proved an inestimable factor for good in the school.
Mr. Cleaves resigned in 1895 and was succeeded by Frank A. Phelps. Mr. Phelps proved an able and efficient officer, and the school enjoyed a pleasant and prosperous term under his supervision. The membership of the school in 1895 was 524. Primary department, eighty-eight. Mrs. Phelps was noted for faithful attendance, not missing a Sunday during his entire term of office. One important even occurring while he was superintendent was the organization of the Baraca class, which has been ever since an indispensable branch of the Sunday school. Mrs. Phelps was re-elected for the fourth year, but, owing to pressure of business cares, resigned at the end of three months, Miles J. Peck, who was then secretary, being elected in his place in March, 1898. During his energetic, enterprising, and faithful leading, the school has been improved in many respects. The most important even was the grading of the school in 1900, the main school holding its sessions in the audience room of the church, the intermediates in the room below, and the primaries having the addition of parlor number one to their department for the use of the infant class. This change, which was made an as experiment, has proved of such benefit and convenience that no one would wish to return to the old ways. The membership has been constantly increasing, the average attendance good, and the interest and zeal unflagging. The attendance at Children's day of the present year was 621, including the primaries who numbered eight-four. The present membership is 608.
There are many classes that deserve special mention did time permit. The Junior Baracas, Mrs. E. H. Wilson, teacher; the Philathea, Mrs. Beardsley, teacher; and Mrs. C. R. Harmon's class, composed of many who have long been faithful members of the school. Mrs. Harmon herself has been a teacher in this school for more than thirty consecutive years.
A valuable addition to the efficiency of the school is the teachers' class, ably conducted by Mrs. F. D. Reese. It is so comfortable to have supply teachers who are able and willing. The Baraca class, already mentioned, is a large and important class, having started during the administration of Prof. Cleaves with only four members, with Dr. F. D. Reese, teacher. It rapidly increased in numbers and was soon augmented by the addition of the old "Robert Raikes" class, formerly taught by Mrs. E.O. Richard. The north-west parlor is the Baraca room. The present officers are E. H. Wilson, Pres.; Charles Gates, Vice. Pres.; W. W. Bennett, Sec.; Jesse Bosworth, Treas.; A. N. Starr, Ass't teacher. The pastor's class of men is a class with an interesting history. This class was formed in 1880 by Miss Florence Bennett, now Mrs. H. A. Cordo. With an original membership of two, it grew to nearly fifty in a period of fifteen years. Upon the departure of Dr. and Mrs. Cordo to a new field of labor, Mrs. S. J. Sornberger became their teacher, and, during the four years in which she conducted the class, although twice without a pastor, yet in that unsettled time, the members were faithful in attendance, and there were several conversions. This class has always been noted for generous giving. As Mrs. Sornberger resigned soon after Rev. W.J. Howell became pastor of the church, he was elected teacher. It has constantly increased in members, until now it comprises nearly one hundred members. It is pleasant to see the army of men marching in to their places in Sunday school. A spirit of loyalty to teacher and class pervades the entire number, and good can not fail to result.
The Home department was organized in 1894, and has been the means of interesting many who are unable to attend the sessions of the school. Miss Ellen Terry, Mrs. Lowell, Mrs. E. M. Eaton, Miss Estelle Walker and Miss Mina Bates have been faithful and efficient leaders in this branch of work. The present membership is forty-seven.
The Primary department, which is an important little world by itself, was organized in 1873. Mrs. J. S. Squires was the first superintendent. Miss Libbie Robertson followed, continuing as superintendent thirteen years. Mrs. Beardsley, Miss Minnie Jenman, Mrs. Squires again, Mrs. Wayne Watkins, Mrs. Adelbert Chapman, Mrs. S. A. Jennison, and Mrs. Anzolette D. Ellsworth have been successively elected to the office of superintendent. Mrs. Chapman, coming as pastor's wife from a different field, brought fresh inspiration and new ideas to the work. She was greatly beloved, and fresh in our memory today is the universal grief manifested at her sudden but triumphal death. Her latest wish was that the little children might attend her funeral, and a sad procession of little ones passed by her casket, taking a tearful farewell look and each leaving a flower as a final gift of love. Her picture hangs upon the wall of the primary room as a reminder to her successors to be zealous and faithful while we may. Her great ambition was to have the double parlors for the use of the little folks, and a library for their especial benefit. Within the last three years these things have been accomplished. "She, being dead, yet speaketh."
The most hopeful feature of the present condition of the school is the general awakening to the fact that our hope, in spiritual as well as national affairs is in the youth of our Sunday schools. Many have gone out from this Sunday school in the past who are now honored and useful workers in the world's great harvest field. We who are active in the work today may not see the great results but let us remember that the promise is not to the successful but to the faithful.
At the Sunday school session Mr. E. A. Fish spoke as follows:
I am very glad to be with you here, and the words that have been spoken have carried me back for years. I rejoice that in the history of this Sunday school, I may have had some little part, nothing worthy of mention, but I have been interested myself and I think all the brethren and sisters that have gone before have been interested with me. I am glad the school has prospered and continued. It does my heart good to come in here, as I have been permitted to do during the past few Sundays, and participate in the service.2 Let us be full of prayer and hope and labor. No great achievement can be made in this world without labor, and let us not hesitate to put it forth. I shall be glad when this service is over to meet the old friends. I think now I shall be able to attend the Sunday school more steadily than in the past. I have never enjoyed myself more than in the Sunday school.
I might think back for a number of years when we were in the older church and when we came to this church and of the many scenes that occupied our attention, but I simply want to say that I feel very thankful to all my friends who stood by me so faithfully when I was superintendent. Many have gone hence. I feel very thankful to all the brethren and friends and when I come here I feel at home. My prayer is that this dear Sunday school may prosper and that I shall live to see the time when many unsaved here today are Christians. If there are any of you here who have not settled the question of your soul's welfare, I adjure you see to it at once. Be interested and join yourselves to the great company who move to that mysterious realm where all ransomed shall meet.
Mr. Joshua C. Sanders of New York City, superintendent of the Sunday school in 1836 spoke as follows:
"O God, give us the Holy Spirit to prompt the thought of our hearts and dictate the words of our lips. We ask it in the name of Him in whom thou are every well pleased, Amen."
My friends I am glad to be with you today and I am almost inclined to shed tears of joy, especially as I hear you sing and recite and listen to the words of truth spoken by your pastor. I must be brief, and you know lawyers know how to make briefs. I came here after finishing one before starting from New York yesterday, which lasted me a week. I fear my brief today will be too long; but if so, your superintendent will ring me down.
I am disposed to take a text. I have no lesson to teach and I shall not undertake to preach a sermon. You will find it in Ecclesiastes, I cannot tell you where, but I think I can quote it correctly---"Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days." Isn't it a strange mandate to command us to cast our bread upon the eaters, to lose it, to sink it out of sight? But the assurance is given that after many days we shall find it again. That is my text, but I am not going to preach about it. I shall probably preach all around it before I am through.
About 100 years ago, in the city of London, Robert Raikes got together an army of children, collected them from the slums to teach them to read, and that was the beginning, so far as I know, of Sunday schools. My own memory goes back to the time when good Miss Brown opened a school in the house where she was teaching a weekday school. The good people in the neighborhood were very much opposed to having a school on Sunday, but they came together to see what she would do, and when she went to work and instructed them in the Bible, they changed their ideas and such men as our pioneer in the church---Asahel Miner, Darby, Rindge and others, said "All right, it is all right, " and so she continued the school I remember telling you when here in August that she gave me a little ticket as a record of merit and on the ticket it said "Good for One Mill." That meant that when a scholar had earned ten of those tickets, he was entitled to one cent. But I never earned the cent, for before the term was up she had to leave to teach elsewhere. From that time there was no school here that I know of, none in Homer, which church I joined in 1832, baptized by Elder Bennett, and I do not recall any in the church at Cortland at that date. There was not any well organized Sunday school in this church until Elder Freeman came in the year mentioned in the book of the program. From that time it has been increasing until this date.
For a short time I was superintendent of the Sunday school. I had excellent assistants---Miss Salisbury was one, a woman well versed in the Scriptures, an excellent teacher and a good advisor. I will go no further as to the history of the Sunday school.
I left here in 1836 and did not return to live here, but have kept in mind your school and church from that date. I will go back a little in my own memory, and state my first recollections of Elder Bennett. History says he commenced to preach about 1807, his first text being "Let us walk in the light." He said he made an entire failure of that first sermon, but in the afternoon he preached from the text "Thy Kingdom Come," and when he got through he felt that he never wanted a better text.
My first recollection of Elder Bennett was this. Where what was formerly known as Card Hill, there was a little stream of water wherein he baptized my oldest sister the summer of 1818. They constructed a dam across this stream and formed a most beautiful baptistery. Afterwards, moving from that place to near where the poor house now stands, the Sunday school was begun by Miss Brown. My knowledge of Elder Bennett all through the years following cannot be forgotten.
After him came Elder Card and I witnessed a baptism by him which impressed me greatly. It was the baptism of his own son. Elder Card was a lame man, but very large, and going down into the water by the aid of his crutch, his son came after, then reaching back the crutch, he baptized him. That son, Wm. Card began preaching and organized the church which is known as the Central Baptist church of New York City, and he preached there with great acceptance for a number of years.
Then, I remember about the time when the first meeting house was built at this place and on these grounds. It comes up in my mind as I speak and I recall the frame being put up. I watched it with anxiety. I believe it was in 1832. I watched the timbers of the steeple being put together and made firm, and Deacon Salisbury standing on the top; and I thought it was the most beautiful completion of a steeple I ever saw. He pointed his hand toward Heaven and it looked as though he was directing me thither.
Looking back, I have many things to rejoice for, as God has kept me. As I have sat here this morning, and heard your pastor refer to the Rev. Mr. Day, I recalled that I was present at his ordination. He married a Miss Clark and they went to India as missionaries among the Telugus. To all appearances, he did not meet with much success, but his work has resulted very favorable. At one time, it was thought to discontinue the mission. It was when Adoniram Judson was here and when they were discussing the discontinuance of the mission, where Dr. Day had undertaken some work which was not approved of in this country. It was proposed to discontinue the work, but Dr. Judson said, "No, let the lone mission continue," and what has been the result? Thousands of Telugus have become Christians; and this has proved to be one of the most successful missions in the denomination.
Now, this casting our bread upon the waters, which we think is a strange thing, is deserving of a little attention. Are we casting our bread upon the waters expecting to get it back again in a few days? Oh no, in many days. The Bible teaches us lessons by turning out attention to objects. You have read in your geographies and perhaps learned otherwise, that the river Nile rises and overflows the land every year, and when it overflows they take advantage of it and sow their rice. And how do they do it? They get a bag of rice, which is as their bread, fasten it over their shoulders, and when the water gets deep enough, they wade in and scatter the rice upon the waters, really burying it; and when the water recedes, it leaves the rice covered upon the land which has been enriched and fertilized by the sediment that the waters have deposited. The seed comes up and yields an abundant harvest and after many days, they find their bread returning, in ten or 100 fold.
Elder Bennett when he labored here in the wilderness bought a little farm in the upper part of the village of Homer; and there he with his own hands felled the trees, built a log house and commenced the support of his family; and so was led into the ministry, as had been told you by your pastor today, preaching his first sermon in a log house. After preaching for over twenty years, he resigned, and I was present at the time of his resignation. He could see the fruit of his own labors. He had cast his bread upon the waters and he saw the three or four churches---the church at Homer, and this the parent church. He did not labor in vain.
The Rev. Dr. Day who labored so faithfully in India, dying in Homer, labored long enough to see the fruit of his labors in the success of his mission. Truly the bread they cast upon the waters they found again after many days.
That is the past, but what is the present situation? This Sunday school, and others throughout the land in all our churches, are casting their bread upon the waters and we have the assurance that they shall find it again after many days. I might refer to others,---there was Moses, a wonderful man. I like to read his history. He was cast upon the waters and was taken up by the daughter of Pharaoh and cared for. He was learned in all the learning of the Egyptians who were the most learned people in those days. Yet with all his learning, he refused to become the son of Pharaoh's daughter, but choose to go with the slaves of that time, with those making mud bricks and had to use the straw to hold them together till they dried, and were used in making adobe houses. By reason of his rashness we are shown that we must have patience. He was obligated to flee and was forty years a fugitive from the land of Egypt. Yet he came back and preached to the people, joined them and led them out across the Red Sea in the hope of reaching the promised land; and yet was not permitted to see it.
What kind of arithmetic do you suppose that man had been studying? We read in the 11th chapter of Hebrews of the faith of Moses and what it accomplished. Didn't he make a mistake? We would have said yes. We would have chosen the riches of Pharaoh rather than to suffer affliction with the people of God. Thousands of years roll around---we hear about Moses, but we have not much evidence as to his existence. But at one time, upon Mt. Tabor there was Jesus with three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, and at once, his appearance changed, his clothing became white and glistening, his face shone as when he met Paul on his way to Damascus, and the light was so great it blinded him; and Moses and Elijah appeared there in glory. Did Moses make a mistake? Thousands of years he had been in glory. He is there now; our Elder Bennett is there; and I do not know but his spirit is here listening to what we have to say, and do, on this occasion.
It is our privilege and opportunity to become like Moses, not in greatness or learning perhaps; but when we go hence we may be clothed with a rove of righteousness which Jesus Christ will give to everyone of his believers,---a robe of glory.
Now, my dear friends, be constant. Do not waver in your faith. You have no reason to waver. There are a great many church members, baptized into Christian churches, who soon lose their interest and go out into the world and drift and drift. It reminds me of the quaint story of the old Indian. He had left his wigwam one morning to go out and hunt. He was gone all day and when at night he tried to return he could find his way back. A white man met him and guessing he was lost, said: "Indian lost?" to which the Indian made reply---"No, Indian no lost. Wigwam lost." Just so with these people---they have no minds of their own. You ask them where they are, whither wandering and are they lost? They reply "We are not lost, the church is lost." When on a little self examination they find themselves at fault, they themselves have really become lost, not the church. Do not waver. Have faith in God. I will close what I have to say with my text---"Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shall find it after many days."
By REV. JOHN B. CALVERT, D. D.
It has been a very great joy for me to be here today and join with you in the services of this place endeared to me by so many associations and delightful experiences, and where I so regularly worshipped in the years gone by. Though this is your hour for your evening worship I have chosen not to take any text nor to discuss any special scriptural theme, but to speak to you out of the fullness of the heart, as a friend speaketh to a friend.
It is needless for me to refer to the pleasure I always experience in coming back to Cortland. How dear is this charming valley, the hills that girt this beautiful city, the homes and streets and stores and people that make up this thriving community, better than any words, my frequent visits here have shown. I have special pleasure and gratification in coming back on this occasion to participate with you in the festivities of this delightful anniversary, to extend my greetings in person to this noble church, and to my friend and brother, your pastor, and to congratulate this community upon having in it midst a people that have made so glorious a record and contributed so inestimable to the intellectual, religious and spiritual upbuilding and advancement, not only of this town and county, but of all the regions round about in this central section of the state through the hundred years of their history.
I believe in anniversaries. I believe in making a great deal of anniversaries, birthdays and holidays. Anniversaries are the way-marks of a church's history as birthdays are of individuals or expositions are of the progress of a nation. There is precedent in scripture for marking special occasions and places with special memorials. When Jacob awoke from that wonderful vision in which he saw a ladder set up on the earth reaching to heaven and the angels of God ascending and descending upon it, he took the stone that he had set up as a pillow and set it up as a pillar and called the place Bethel---"the House of God". When the Lord in answer to the prayer and the cries of Samuel delivered the children of Israel from the hands of the Philistines and gave them a glorious victory over their enemies Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called the name of it Ebenezer: "Hitherto hath the Lord helped a healthy growth, when its whole history is but a record of the great and manifold mercies which God has vouchsafed unto you as a people you could do no other than set up at this time and in this place your Ebenezer and say: "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." For all your glorious history, all your notable achievements, all your splendid conquests are not the result of man's efforts but the expression of God's love and power working out in this community the salvation of His people in harmony with His purpose of redemption for the whole world, until His will shall be done in earth as in heaven.
Standing, as we do, on the vantage ground of this centennial, and on the threshold of this new century, we are admonished to look back over all the way that God hath led us that we may review the lessons which wisdom and experience would teach and to look forward with inspiration and hope that we may catch some indication of God's love and power for the larger opportunities and service of the future.
When this church came into being October 3rd, 1801, it was the first religious organization within the boundary of this county. If is difficult to picture in our imagination the world as it existed at that time. France was passing through the throes of the bloody Revolution. England was just entering upon her great career of expansion. Bismarck, Gladstone and Queen Victoria had not been born. Our great Republic numbered only sixteen states bordering on the Atlantic sea-board. The population was small, there was little wealth, the facilities for education were meager and the means for communication and travel few and poor. There were in this county no Sunday schools, no religious weeklies, little or no religious literature and no missionary societies. Carey was just entering upon his great missionary work in India and Judson was only a youth at school, preparing to enter college which he did two years later. This great Empire state a century ago was largely a wilderness and the western section was just opening up to settlement. This place was only a hamlet and the plot of ground upon which this stately edifice stands was in the midst of an unbroken forest.
But in the sweep of years that span the life of this church what marvelous transitions in the material, industrial, educational and governmental world have taken place! This church has witnessed the changes among the nations that have recast the map of the world. It has witnessed the whole growth of our great Republic from a colonial federation to a world-wide power. It has seen the expansion of missionary activity and the spread of Christianity around the globe. It as witnessed the whole growth of this beautiful city, the marvelous transformation from the ox team to the trolley car, from candles and lamps to gas and electricity, the development of your great commercial and manufacturing enterprises, and the entire growth of your noble educational and religious institutions which are very justly your pride and joy today.
And what unparalleled growth has this church witnesses in our own denomination during its history! At the opening of the last century we numbered only about 100,000 Baptists in the whole country and only about 5,000 in this state. Now we have more than 150,000 members enrolled in the Baptist ranks in this state and more than 4,000,000 in the whole country and are increasing at the rate of 150,000 to 200,000 per year. Then we had only one higher institution of learning, now widely known as Brown University, located in Providence, Rhode Island. Now we have 200 schools, academies and colleges equipped with 2,000 teachers and 40,000 students and the munificent sum of $45,000,000 invested in buildings and endowment, an amount larger than that under the control of any other denomination.
But this church as not stood here a silent witness to all these changes and to this wonderful growth; if it had, even that would entitle it to distinction. It has kept pace to a remarkable degree with the progress of the century, affording a striking illustration of the triumph of faith over many seemingly insurmountable difficulties. My grandparents on both my father's and mother's side were among the pioneer settlers in this town. My mother's branch of the family early came into touch with this church and for three generations was closely identified with all its interests. My mother was baptized by Rev. Mr. Montague, during the revival which refreshed and blessed this church in the "thirties" and my father and mother were joined in marriage by Rev. Mr. Simmons, whose successful pastorate extended well nigh through the "forties". There were no traditions in our family that were more sacredly cherished than those relating to the early struggles of this church and to Elder Bennett, the first pastor.
The seed from which this church sprung like the seed in the parable was the least of all seeds, but it was planted in faith and prayer and watered with the tears of the little company of earnest, God-fearing people. The church building was located then on the corner on the road to Homer, on what is now known as the Copeland property. When Mr. Bennett moved into this region from Connecticut he bought a farm on the hill east of Homer village and soon became known as one of the most active workers in this little church. He was gifted in prayer and exhortation and though but a farmer he was repeatedly solicited to take the leadership of the little bank and finally reluctantly consented to do so. He was a man who had great power with God and great influence among the people. I can almost see him now kneeling in the snow by the tree he had felled, or in the corner of the field he was plowing and pouring out his soul in earnest prayer and supplication to God, or hear his voice in earnest pleading with a friend and neighbor to submit himself to Christ as his Savior, so frequently and vividly was he portrayed to me.
Those were days of soul-stirring revivals when the Bible was preached in its simplicity and when strong men trembled under conviction of sin and cried out as children for deliverance. The church was the central meeting place; the services took the place of all forms of entertainment and religion dominated the thought and life of the people. This church was early recognized as destined to exert a wide evangelizing influence and to be an important factor in shaping our educational and missionary policies. The ministry of Father Bennett lifted it to an exalted place and infused into it a missionary spirit which as been the chief impelling and propelling force in all its activities to this day. During its history four churches have gone out from its membership, and a multitude of men and women have gone from it to fill places of honor and trust in the business, educational and missionary world, and yet it had gone on multiplying its strength and developing it resources until it exerts a wider influence and touches life at more points today than ever before. The remarkable fact was brought out at our State Convention meetings at Mechanicville last week that of the eight-seven Baptist church n this state at the opening of the century this church was one of four which had maintained itself to the present time without help, and contributed to the aid of all our denominational interests. "The little seed that is least of all seeds when it is grown, is the greatest among herbs and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof."
But more than this and better than this, through all these years of growth this church has maintained the high ideals of the fathers as a witness to truth and righteousness. In the earlier years it withstood the anti-mission, anti-mason, and other divisive controversies without division, and in these later times neither pulpit nor pew has given welcome to any of the modern heresies that have perplexed so many of the ministers and churches. The word or God has been the only standard of faith and the only rule of action. The fathers made no such distinction as an "old" and "new" gospel. They preached only the one gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. And the whole line of pastors that have served this church since have been content to preach the Bible and have not endeavored to air their own notions, to pose as superior to those of a past generation, to question the authority and authenticity of the scriptures or to discourse upon themes that would indicate their familiarity with modern "thought". None of them so far as I know, has been unduly swayed by "Higher Criticism" or has espoused the so-called "New Theology". By this I would not wish to imply that they were ignorant or indifferent to the careful investigation and painstaking research of scholarship but I may say for them as for myself that nothing has been brought to light to cause them to change the long accredited conception of God, of sin and of the need of salvation.
The last decade has been especially marked by storm and stress in the theological world. The spirit of destructive criticism has been dominant and the Bible and church have probably been subjected to a severer test than will ever be applied again. A hundred men have been ready to tear down where one was willing to build up. Even the hymns of the church have not escaped and some have pronounced them vulgar and unfit to express the religious sentiment of an intelligent people. But since our lamented President in that dying hour, radiant with eternal peace and glory, breathed out his soul in that precious old hymn that has been the consolation of so many hearts and thus exalted it to a place with our national hymn and set it singing around the world, it will be a long time, I believe before any one will again have a word of flippant criticism to offer against any of our sacred hymns. And I believe that the profound impression produced upon the country by the death of our chief Magistrate, has turned the mind of the people to the church and to God as nothing else could and has greatly strengthened the tide of conviction and sentiment that had already turned in favor of our religion and our religious institutions, which it taught men everywhere that honor and position are not to be coveted at all in comparison with a pure and noble life modeled on the pattern given to us in this Hold World.
It is to the glory of this church that through the shifting and changing of the past years it has stood true to the gospel. I would not wish in any way to be thought to deplore wholesome and judicious criticism. Such criticism is strengthening to faith and stimulating to action. But I do deplore the effect which destructive criticism has had upon the churches almost everywhere. The duty of the church is not to answer her opponents: it is to make known God's word to men, to fit men to live here and to show them the way of truth and holiness. As Carlyle said: "Our grand business in life is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand." Men cannot get along without religion, the world cannot get along with it, the church cannot get along without it. Religion has to do with God and our relations to God, or, as Crispi, the Premier of Italy said---"Religion is Christ." When everywhere in our churches Christ is recognized as an actual living personality, when his love fills every heart, when the chief concern is to do His will then the authority of the Bible will be supreme, the spirit of evangelism will sweep over the land and the church will be restored to her supreme place in the thought and affections of the people.
But to stand for faith is not the end for which a church exists, it is only the means to an end. The church is not a vast ecclesiastical or philanthropic institution organized merely for the sake of ministering man's intellectual and physical well-being. The church is a great living, vitalizing and evangelizing organism. It is composed of those who, united to Christ in vital fellowship, are endeavoring to take His place and to do His work in the world. The church is the body of Christ. The closeness of the union of the members with Christ is defined by the Apostle when he declares that "we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones." It may therefore be said that the church is the Christ reincarnated again upon the earth. And as Christ came into the world to manifest the love of God and the purpose of that love is the salvation of men, so the end of the church is make known that love in all lands and to all peoples and to labor unceasingly for the redemption of all classes and conditions of men.
Some one has said: "While God alone can save the world, God cannot save the world alone." But God wants only now and then a Paul, a Luther, a Calvin, a Newton, a Watts and a Moody, but God wants always and the world wants always a great multitude of men and women in all our churches thoroughly consecrated to Christ and to his service. It is owing to the consecrated to Christ and to his service. It is owing to the consecrated, self-sacrificing, unwearying labors of such Christ-like men and women that this church has been brought successfully through all these years of her history and enjoys so great distinction and exerts so wide an influence as she does today. If this church had stood here simply for the purpose of maintaining her own distinctive views and her own independent position she might better have ceased to exist long ago. She will cease to exist when she has nothing more than that to do. She has maintained her position and growth because she has given herself unreservedly in her ministry to the poor and the destitute, to the fallen and the outcast, to the lost and the impenitent and to the aiding of the churches in the towns up and down this valley and to the furthering of every good endeavor in our own and other lands.
The world is not ripe for one church. It will never be so long as men are constituted as they are now. There has been a larger work done for this place than if all the churches here were of one name. There is room here for all these churches. To all intents and purposes you are one so far as outward effort and life are concerned in ministering to the welfare and interest of the while community. The spirit of fellowship and fraternal feeling has grown up here until the lines that formerly separated you one from the other, as when I first knew you, have been obliterated. This is among the most gratifying results of your co-operating together. Out of this spirit has also grown the delightful custom which you have of worshipping in union services during the summer season and which is being more and more observed in other places. Such a spirit of harmony and co-operation among all the churches of the land will do more than anything else to b ring about church federation which many think is coming and is now close at hand, for a federation must gather about Christ and partake of His spirit to be effective and enduring.
Turning now to look toward the future what are the lessons which this anniversary has for the years to come. One of the most important is that this great and blessed work which you have been doing should go on with a widening and swelling flood, like a river to the sea. Twenty-nine years ago I left my home and this church to go to college. As I have come back from time to time, as on this occasion, the thing that has impressed me the most is the changes that have taken place. Many conflicting emotions fill my mind and heart as I stand here and look into your faces tonight. While I rejoice to see so many who have toiled here in the years gone by and so many of the young, who have grown into efficient and earnest workers, I miss the large number of those whom I used to meet here who have finished their course and now sleep in the quiet of yonder hillside. I am thankful tonight, as I am sure you all are:
For Faith that held on to the last,|
For all sweet memories of the past---
Dear memories of my dead that send
Long thoughts of life, and of life's end---
That make me know the light conceals
A deeper world than it reveals.
On such occasions, when we miss those that have gone, we all share, I think, the feeling of the traveler who paid the ferryman who rowed him over the river three fares and when the boatman attempted to return two of the fares he said: "Never mind, let it go to pay the fares of the invisible companions who traveled with me."
I remember to have heard Dr. Nelson of Rochester say that one day when visiting a friend at his beautiful country seat he walked out with him into his garden and his friend plucked a rose and gave it to him. When he inhaled its fragrance it called up to him instantly the home and garden beyond the sea and the scenes of his childhood and his dear mother for it was just such a rose as she had treasured in her garden. The invitation to this anniversary has served the purpose of that rose to me and has led to the recalling of the old home, the childhood days, the friendships that were so precious, and the years that were so full of happiness to me. We would not look upon death with so much dread if we remembered that the passing out of this life will be an experience something like this and that heaven is a state in which we will recall only the happiest things of earth and in which all the unpleasant things will be forgotten.
My first church home was the Baptist church at Homer, the third daughter of this church, and my first spiritual father was our beloved Elder G.H. Brigham, who name is a household word all through this section of the state, who is loved and esteemed wherever known, whose life has been like a sweet fragrance in every field in which he has labored and who everywhere, outside of this community, is recognized as "the Baptist Bishop of Central New York." When my family returned to Cortland they became regular attendants upon this church and after my conversion and baptism into your fellowship I became a child of this church. Years afterward when Elder Brigham made his home in Cortland and cast his lot with this goodly people, my spiritual father became my elder brother and he has sustained in most intimate and delightful fellowship the double relationship of spiritual father and brother ever since. I am glad of the opportunity on this anniversary occasion to say this word of appreciation of a men whom we all hold in such affection and esteem, for I have never ceased to be grateful for the inspiration and example of this good man that first came into my life when I was only a Sunday school boy at Homer.
My first knowledge of this church began in the early sixties when the dark shadow of the Great Civil war hung over all this broad country. The church then worshipped in the large white colonial building with its row of tall white columns extending across the front, which stood where this edifice now stands and which I have heard my uncle say was built on the contract for $3,000. Elder Wilkins was then the pastor. He was one of that grand type of men of a former generation that has almost passed away. He it was who led me into the baptismal waters and his great paternal heart ever beat with loving loyalty for his church and tender devotion for his spiritual children. Among the splendid company of those who held up his hands and nobly seconded all his efforts were E. A. Fish, R. P. Slafter, James S. Squires, W. S. Hatfield, E. P. Sumner, J. Leroy Gillett, Curtis R. Harmon, Joseph Kinney, Clinton T. Rindge, E. R. Stedman, N. P. Walworth and scores of others, together with the noble women who labored with them in the gospel, and of whom time will not permit me to speak tonight.
Elder Wilkins was succeeded by Rev. W. N. Tower. Who led in the enterprise which resulted in this present church building, and was the pastor at the time of my going away to Rochester. In that brief period since that time, which seems now as if it were only yesterday, Elders Wilkins Tower, Westgate, and Mattison and a large company of those who were cheered and blessed by their ministry, have joined the larger congregation, who are worshipping in glory tonight. If those who have gone on before know of the things of Christ's Kingdom that are taking place on this earth what a great host is interested in these services and rejoicing with us in the success of this Zion at this hour!
But numerous and great as are the changes that have taken place among this people it is a matter of profound thanksgiving that the life of this church has continued unbroken through the century, and that so far as we can now see there shall be no interruption in the future. It is said that the object of Christ's resurrection was not to show that we should have the same body after death that had in this life, but that the life which we have in Christ is to continue through death and the grave, yea though eternity. The changes though which this church has passed and is passing only emphasize the continuity of its life and effort. The splendid services which this church has been rendering to this community and to the world must go on. They cannot stop. These anniversary days will come to an end; these exercises will be forgotten; these friends will separate, never to meet on earth again as we are met tonight. But the life of this church must flow on uninterruptedly in the future as in the past multiplying your influence, magnifying your work, honoring your Lord until this church militant shall become the church triumphant.
This anniversary also calls every one of us to renewed and personal consecration to Christ and His work. Nothing abiding can be done without earnest consecrated effort. As we gather about this mother church tonight and look up into her gentle face we re thankful that we see no lines furrowing her brow, no bent form, no tottering step, no appearance of neglect and no wasting away of body and resources. We praise God for the spiritual favor and divine leadership granted to this noble church through all the hundred years of her history. We are grateful too, for those who have labored here in the past and for the splendid legacy which they have transmitted to us, their children. That we may bequeath this heritage, duly enlarged and augmented, to the generation that shall come after us we must consecrate ourselves wholly and unreservedly to the ideals and principles of the fathers whose names and memories should be the glory and inspiration of every member of this church from this day forward. There is little else in this world that is enduring except active, faithful Christian service rendered to some one or to the world at large.
In one of the art galleries in Europe is a picture of Christ's crucifixion. The outline, the coloring, the vividness of the painting call up instantly to the mind of the beholder all of those terrible deeds done on Calvary. Immediately as your eyes fall upon the picture you glance to the bottom and there you reading large gilt letters: "I did this for thee, what hast thou done for me?" That is the question my friends which this anniversary asks of us, that is the question which this services asks of us, that is the question which every act of Christ's life asks of us and that is the question that will be asked of us when we are all summoned t render our account before God. It will not be the other questions, how much learning did you accumulate, but this one simple question. What hast thou done for me?
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Centennial Anniversary Table of Contents
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